Lobster levy  could bolster P.E.I marketing brand

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P.E.I. leads the way with the implementation of a penny a pound marketing levy this year confirmed by P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association vice-president Bobby Jenkins, left, and executive director Ian MacPherson during a presentation to a legislative standing committee.

The first lobster levy in Canada goes into effect this year, and an estimated $600,000 in proceeds could launch some big marketing efforts, including a better name for P.E.I.’s little gems known as “canners”.

“We got a clear message from our fishermen three years ago that they wanted to see this effort advance,” said P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association vice-president Bobby Jenkins. “And here we are.”

The Kings County fisherman told a standing committee on agriculture and fisheries the levy was sparked by the boat tie-up in 2013 when fishermen launched a massive strike and refused to fish for a $3 lobster.

And now, Prince Edward Island will become the first Atlantic province to initiate the project as a way to better brand and promote the Island catch. The 1,300 fishermen across the province land about 30 million pounds while fishing in a spring and fall season.

“I think the P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association is showing some real leadership in this project to market our product,’’ said association director Ian MacPherson during the session at the J. Angus MacLean building in Charlottetown.

The fishery reps said a Lobster Fishers of P.E.I. board consisting of 12 members has been established to handle the levy proceeds, and a similar action will be undertaken by the Island processors. Those two groups will represent a Lobster Commodity Board.

“Details are still being worked out, but the idea is to use these funds to work with marketing professionals as a way to bring more attention to our unique product,’’ said MacPherson.

“Cruise ships and the casino business love the small lobster.” Ian MacPherson, executive director P.E.I. Fishermen’s Association.

The committee was told that while exports to China are increasing, most buyers in that country believe they are selling “Boston” lobster and have no idea where P.E.I. is located or that Island lobster is wild caught or is a finer product. And using the word “canner” has been misinterpreted in that country as something of lesser quality.

“I think we’d like to change this concept and make sure they know they are buying the best,’’ said MacPherson. “Cruise ships and the casino business love the small lobster.”

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The association director has compared “canners”, the smaller lobsters landed largely in the spring fishery, to Beaujolais Nouveau wine; only available for a few months every year and bought by the case.

Jenkins said the association was disappointed that Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have not decided to adopt the levy concept at this point, but confirmed Island fishermen have every intention to proceed.

Maine fishermen have the same type program and raise $3 million a year for marketing.

“Some critics might say, what can we do with $600,000?” asked MacPherson. “We’re not talking millions, but it’s a lot more than we were doing before, and there definitely is a price difference.”

Organizations: P.E.I. board, Lobster Commodity Board

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, P.E.I. Fishermen, Canada Kings Charlottetown China Boston Nova Scotia New Brunswick Maine

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